In 2020 Nick Mason is going on another tour with his band Saucerful Of Secrets, which will take him through about 50 European cities. A large part of the setlist will consist of Pink Floyd songs from 1968 to 1972. During these five years of reorientation after the separation from Syd Barrett, the group took the decisive steps in a development that would bring them superstar status from 1973 onwards and make them the art-rock band par excellence.
20 days in January 1968: January 8th: David Gilmour rehearses with Pink Floyd for the first time. January 10th: Gilmour participates in a Pink Floyd recording session at Abbey Road Studios for the first time. 12. January: Pink Floyd's concert in Birmingham is the first of a total of four gigs the band will play with five people - Syd Barrett and Gilmour on guitar. 20. January: Barrett plays his last concert with Pink Floyd in Hastings. 26. January: The other Pink Floyd members do not pick up Syd Barrett for the concert in Southampton. 27. January: The British press reports that Gilmour is now an official member of the band. The departure of the singer, guitarist and main songwriter was completed so quickly and virtually on the fly. The Syd-Barrett era with Pink Floyd was over, but the shadow of his involuntary departure was to remain over the band forever. "The flames are all long gone, but the pain lingers on", Roger Waters wrote in 1979 in "Goodbye Blue Sky" - a line that can also be applied to Pink Floyd's relationship with their former mastermind.
The musicians were young - Gilmour was only 21 years old when he joined the band and therefore just of age according to British law at the time -, they were hungry, wanted to be successful and dreamed of star fame. Although the management subsequently broke up with the band and put Syd Barrett on the map, the musicians' eyes were set on the future. Nick Mason commented: "After Syd's departure, there was no doubt about it - which was astonishing, as he had written 90 percent of the material."
Gilmour, who had to follow in big footsteps, had to struggle with the problems of a newcomer: "I had to learn all the parts that Syd sang and his guitar style. My style and his style weren't exactly the same, so it was difficult for me." Nevertheless, everyone was convinced of his qualities. The manager at the time, Peter Jenner, remembered: "When David came to audition, someone said: 'Dave, give us the Hendrix!' And then he produced these extraordinary, breathtaking sounds. He could play like Hendrix and he could play like Barrett." Rick Wright added, "With Syd we had lost an incredible songwriter, but with David we had gained an incredible guitarist,
" while Waters and Wright tried to fill the gap that Barrett had left as a songwriter. A first attempt failed: The single "It Would Be So Nice", released in April 1968, missed its entry into the UK charts. Waters: "Nobody listened to it because it was such a miserable single. To replace Syd as boss was all right. But Syd as a songwriter was unique." Wright also had to admit: "Roger and I tried our hand at songwriting. We realised we couldn't write like Syd, so we had to change direction."
"A Saucerful Of Secrets": A band in a metamorphosis
That's what Pink Floyd did: On June 28, 1968 "A Saucerful Of Secrets" was released. It shows a band during a metamorphosis. Three of the songs are taken from the 1967 recording sessions with Barrett, the other four are played by Gilmour on guitar. Despite the circumstances, the group was self-confident. When EMI producer Norman Smith, who had also produced "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" and was a sound engineer for The Beatles, rejected the 12-minute experimental title track, the band countered. Wright: "We were pretty arrogant guys. We told him if he didn't want to produce the title track and wanted to have three-minute pop songs instead, he could disappear
The band threw themselves into work, played concerts all the time, looked for innovations. So the assignment to write the music for the movie "More" by the French director Barbet Schroeder came in handy. The soundtrack, released on June 13, 1969, was recorded in a very short time (in barely a week at the end of January/beginning of February 1969, which Gilmour called "assembly line work") and yet it contains a long-standing Pink Floyd live classic, "Cymbaline". Simple songs are contrasted with abstract sound paintings.
"More" revealed two things. Firstly, while in 1968 it had still looked as if Wright and Waters would take the band's destiny into their own hands, this now proved to be a fallacy. About half of the songs on "More" were penned by Waters, the other half are collaborative compositions. It was Waters who increasingly took the initiative and pushed the band forward. Mason put it this way: "Roger was always able to work and knew what to do. When Syd left, Roger became a songwriter. He just did it." Second: If Gilmour's role on "A Saucerful Of Secrets" was still that of an outsider, he now gained in importance. All vocal parts on "More" were taken over by him. Mason confirmed this: "It took David about six months to get all of Syd's stuff. By early 1969, he was fully integrated